Jair Jurrjens (SP - ATL): This is becoming a bit ridiculous. Jurrjens made it 11-11 in quality starts on Thursday night with 7 strong innings against the Marlins. He allowed 6 hits and 2 ER's and went his 2nd consecutive start without walking a batter. I've been touting Jurrjens as a sell high candidate for the last 3 weeks and have recently capitalized on some offers I feel strong about (trading Jurrjens for Quentin in 1 league and Jurrjens, Cruz, Storen, and A. Gordon for Bedard, Morrow, Choo, and Carlos Gonzalez in another). With Jurrjens improving to 8-2 on the season and continuing his incredible string of quality starts, his value continues to ascend. It's unusual to find an opportunity that is so obvious to capitalize on a player than the one with Jurrjens. Jurrjens improvements, BB Rate and GB Rate, are enough to lower his xFIP from 4.29 to 3.44 but that 3.44 number is still 1.6 runs above his current ERA. In addition there's reason to believe the improvements in Jurrjens BB Rate aren't legitimate. For example had I told you a pitcher was throwing fewer first strikes, fewer pitches in the zone overall, and generating fewer swings outside the zone; would you expect that pitcher's BB Rate to improve? Well this is the case with Jurrjens, whose decline in his BB Rate has come simply because batters are making more contact (85%). In addition Jurrjens FB velocity is down 2 mph this season and batters aren't having a hard time squaring him up (21% LD Rate). Jurrjens career LD Rate allowed is closer to 19% and his career BABIP allowed (.281) is 15 points lower than the BABIP he entered last night's game (.266). So to add it all up, we have a pitcher who is giving up harder contact but getting more outs on balls in play and a pitcher who is throwing more balls and generating less chases but walking fewer batters. Does any of that make sense? When the luck turns Jurrjens will be closer to a 4.00 ERA pitcher than a 3.00 ERA pitcher and given his middling K Rate (5.50 K/9) even at the level of a 3.00 ERA pitcher he'd be just a mid-rotation option. Jurrjens' performance early in the season is that of an ace, but he faces so many headwinds to continue this performance that owners need to be aggressive in selling high. Every once in a while an extreme opportunity comes along to upgrade your roster and lock in a huge profit. This is one of those instances and owners need to strike while the iron is hot.
Anthony Rizzo (1B - SD): As had been speculated for a week or so, the Padres recalled Anthony Rizzo and inserted him into their lineup as their everday 1B; shifting Brad Hawpe to the OF. Rizzo was putting up softball numbers at AAA this year, finally showing th big power breakthrough many expected, hitting .365/.444/.715 through 52 games with his new club. It should be noted that the run-scoring environment for Rizzo was a bit different in AAA Tuscon than it will be in PETCO as the games in Tuscon averaged over 13 runs/game and games in PETCO average just over 6, so while it's an impressive performance at AAA for Rizzo it remains to be seen how much of a fantasy contributor he'll be able to be playing in a park that suppresses his best skill (power) and with a lineup that doesn't offer much support but he's worth a flier as a potential CI or U option in roto leagues. I'm expecting Rizzo to have some ups and downs but ultimately will be here to stay this year (unlike Jerry Sands). I'm expecting something along the lines of .270-35-10-35 the rest of the way. There's obviously upside for more, but the concerns over the home park and the supporting cast are legitimate and will likely limit his value.
Charlie Blackmon (OF - COL): Any time a Rockies position player gets called up its deserving of fantasy attention, so earlier in the week when the Rockies called on Charlie Blackmon and inserted him as their starting LF, I immedaitely took the chance to add Blackmon in a few leagues and see where it went. Blackmon was putting together a big season in AAA hitting .342/.396/.576 with 10 HR's and 12 SB's. The power-speed combination is an intriguing one for fantasy owners and with pretty good contact rates (just 14% K Rate), Blackmon has a skill-set that could translate immediately. He went 1-4 on Thursday night and is now just 2-11 through his first 3 games but he's struck out just once. The Rockies have been moving parts in and out of late so it's unclear how long of a leash Blackmon will have, but I'm giving him at least 2 weeks on my roster (assuming the Rockies will as well) to see if he can stick. He's not as good of a hitter or a prospect as a guy like Anthony Rizzo, but this is where situation matters. His ability to run coupled with a park that rewards speed and a deep Rockies lineup that typically gets hot around this time of the year, there's a lot of reason to take a chance on a guy like Blackmon. It might not all click, but if it does we're looking at a player that could be a 15-25 type pace (8-15 production) the rest of the way in HR's and SB's.
Randy Wells (SP - CHC): Wells start was cut short by rain but it may as well have been cut short by performance. He allowed 3 hits, 2 BB's, and 3 ER's in 2 1/3 innings in his 3rd start since returning from the disabled list. Wells was a guy who was perennially underrated by fantasy owners the last two years as he posted FIPs consistently below 4 thanks to adequate K Rates, good command, and solid GB Rates. This year though it's been a different story. Wells K Rate is way up but he's having a harder time commanding the plate and his GB Rate has plummeted down to 40%. Digging in on Wells the first thing that stands out is Wells velocity has dipped to just 87 mph and his slider usage has increased to above 30%. Wells has already seen one trip to the disabled list and with worse command, decreased velocity, and increased slider usage I'm concerned there might be more time on the disabled list in Wells' future. While he deserves to be owned in NL Only leagues I would not start Wells until I saw improvement in his command. He's allowed 12 ER's in 12 IP since returning from the DL with a 10:6 K:BB Ratio and hasn't looked the same.
Gaby Sanchez (1B - FLA): It was bound to happen at some point but we're starting to see some BABIP regression in Gaby Sanchez. Sanchez is just 1-15 over his last 4 games and has seen his batting average drop from .321 to .305 in the span. Even with the mini-slump, which has been supported by poor peripherals here in June (2 BB, 7 K in 30 AB), Sanchez has posted two straight months of elite and improved peripherals. Sanchez has raised is BB Rate above 11% and cut his K Rate below 17%, while tightening his zone command (29% chase rate, down from 34%), and raising his ISO from .175 to .190. A look at Sanchez's minor league peripherals shows K and BB Rates right in-line with his performance this year. Even the pop he's showing this year isn't out of character with a few of his minor league seasons. Given he's demonstrated all the skills before, albeit at a lower level, I'm inclined to believe whole-heartedly in Sanchez's 2011 line. His batting average is probably overstated by 20 points or so, but a .350+ OBP and .480+ Slugging % both look legitimate. I envision Sanchez continuing on his pace towards his first 25+ HR/90+ RBI season, while seeing his average settle in around .285-.290.